Sunpak 622 Super, Bare Bulb or Diffuser Head : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am thinking of buying my first flash for portrait photography. Often, I find I don't have enough light to make an exposure at an acceptable shutter speed and aperature even in daylight using HP-5+ and an 8x10.

I think the Sunpak 622 Super with either a bare bulb or a diffuser head may be the best choice. Would someone with experience using these (or similar heads from another manufacter) please tell the different effects of these two heads for portraiture. (An aside: I posted this on, since it is not a strictly large-format question, but the post was moved to the unmoderated forum and is not receiving responses. Most posts I make to end up with a 24 hour life. I sure hope this forum never becomes part of it.)

-- William Marderness (, September 05, 2000



I suppose you're looking for something relatively small and portable?

I am not sure if the Sunpak 622 Super will be sufficiently powerful for your needs. Could you give an indication of what aperture you're generally shooting at for portraiture?

FWIW, a bare-bulb flash is small omnidirectional lightsource. On it's own, it gives a very HARD light since it's a very small specular source of light. A lot of people claim it as a soft light. Well, it gets softer only with a lot of bounce! (and then it becomes a combination specular + soft). Even with the typical small diffuser on, it's still a very hard source of light (the light merely becomes more directional now). Is this an acceptable source of light for portraiture? It depends on your photographic aesthetic.

Personally, I use a cheap Sunpak 120J barebulb capable flash for limited location photography where an AC power source is not available. I shoot through a Photoflex Litedome (small - it only has one layer of diffuser in front) and get about f8@ 2.5m with 400 speed film at full power or f11 with a small silver umbrella at the same distance. I think the flash puts out around 120Ws with the reflector on.

May I suggest you look for a Norman 200B or 400B? They put out 200 and 400Ws respectively. I have seen old 200B pack + head go for USD$180. They often have dead nicad batteries which you can rebuild with lead acids (depends on the charger too).

For a pricier and more sophisticated option (with the same amount of portability), consider Quantum or Dynalite.

-- KH Tan (, September 05, 2000.

I really don't think the 622 is going to have enough juice for that, especially with those heads. Here's why....

A _non-reflector_ head such as a bare tube or diffusion cover depends on nearby reflecting surfaces for "soft" light; in a very small white-painted room fill light would be reflected from all surfaces resulting in very soft light and efficient use of the light, while otoh in a huge room or outdoors there are essentially no reflecting surfaces and that makes these effectively point sources. Light is used very inefficiently since it's spread in all directions, not just toward the subject, plus the result is hard light; even the sun is a larger apparent source, and you know how hard-edged direct shadows produced by the sun are.

While you could of course get enough light for 8x10 with a bare tube outdoors, because of its inefficient use of the light generated it'll take lots of power to get a reasonable aperture, _far_ more than the 622 can produce.

If you seriously want to use battery-portable bare-tube flash outdoors and get enough light for reasonable use with 8x10, you need to be looking at some of the 1200w/s, 2400w/s or more equipment from Hensel etc. The cheapest is a couple thousand dollars.

But I assume spending a few thousand dollars to mimic harsh sunlight isn't exactly what you have in mind.

Smaller flashes such as the Norman 400 or other 400-800w/s portable lights _may_ work ok, assuming one head in a fairly small softbox or umbrella. The catch is that you'll most likely have to get the light close to the subject, perhaps uncomfortably close. It all depends on what apertures you want to use.

-- John Hicks (, September 05, 2000.

If anything, get the standard head, you're going to need a brolly or some sort of large area diffuser anyway. I can't see any advantage to using the gimmick heads.
I've used a Meccablitz with a GN of 60, either through, or into, a white brolly for head and shoulders portraits, with excellent results, but not with a 10x8. I doubt that even GN60 is going to be enough to get you a workable aperture.
I'm inclined to agree that powerful studio units are your only option.

-- Pete Andrews (, September 06, 2000.

Thanks everyone. I have never used flash before. Just shot outdoors with natural light. With 4x5 and smaller, this usually worked ok, but with the 8x10 I got last year, I usually dont have enough light to get the aperture/shutter speed I want.

I was under the impression that the Sunpak 622 was a very powerful flash. I guess it is for 35mm/MF. Now I know I need to learn to use lighting with an umbrella, so the fancy heads are unnecessary. Maybe I should use a smaller format when I need to use flash. I was not expecting to this to cost so much. $500 is my maximum. Any solutions within my price range?

-- William Marderness (, September 06, 2000.

I'd second the recommendation for a used Norman 400B pack, head, and a softbox. The old ones are quite rugged, so you can often get a perfectly good working unit in ugly condition for cheap (try eBay or Ken Hansen in New York). Add a new Delta V battery and charger (will cost more than the unit) and it's as good as new, and should come close to your price range.

You may find that you need to put the flash quite close to the subject, but if you want a head-and-shoulders portrait with 8x10, the camera will be pretty close as well anyway unless you have a long tele and miles of bellows.

-- David Goldfarb (, September 06, 2000.

The power demands are likely to be so high, you may need to consider one of the newer Balcar battery-operated studio flashes. With 8x10, you're obviously interested in a high quality aesthetic, and for that I think you'd do better with reflector/diffuser panels to allow you to more easily see what's happening with the lighting. The old timers did portraits with 8x10 and slower emulsions, so there's no reason it can't be done today.

-- Steve Singleton (, September 06, 2000.

I've used 800 w-s with a softbox up close for fairly tight shots and 200 w-s with a softbox with the camera a bit farther back, both shooting TMX at e.i. 80 in 8x10". What works will depend in part on how much DOF you want and how close you are to the subject (don't forget the bellows factor if you get really close, and then you'll need even more DOF so the subject can breathe while you insert the film, remove the darkslide, and wait for the right expression). If you are shooting HP5+ somewhere around e.i. 320 or 400, I would think 400 w-s would cover most situations. You can get a Norman head for the 400B that takes a modeling light, by the way.

-- David Goldfarb (, September 06, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ